Regardless of Professor Graubart’s comments, threats are unnecessary and halt progression

by Victor Beck, Contributor

San Diego State University professor Jonathan Graubart faced major criticism after his controversial comments regarding Senator John McCain’s recent brain cancer diagnosis. Graubart took to Facebook to express annoyance with the flood of “good wishes” directed towards McCain as a result of the diagnosis. Graubart also attacked McCain’s track record — that not only has he faltered in his commitment to public health, but that he is a war criminal as well.

Graubart may have shown a lack of empathy in his original post, but he poses an interesting point. Graubart expresses his frustration by saying “what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others.” Graubart is personally connected to the situation and explains that his mother fell victim to the same form of brain cancer as McCain — glioblastoma.

Being uncomfortable with valuing certain lives over others is valid, but Graubart overlooked a few details when making his claim.  John McCain isn’t an “utter stranger”. He is an ex-presidential candidate and well-known senator. Of course his brain cancer diagnosis is going to gain traction with media outlets, and it is only natural for people to wish well for those who have fallen ill. If there was a movement to financially support McCain, Graubart’s frustrations would be more grounded because it would reinforce his notion that we shouldn’t value any life over another. Wishing wellness on someone is something anyone is capable of doing. It is clear that emotion has taken over Graubart’s critique rather than logic.

Even if Graubart overlooked important details when trying to express his opinion, it doesn’t validate the threats against his life that he has received since posting his thoughts. As a professor, Graubart has a responsibility to pose intellectual questions and challenge those around him on how they view various topics. And as students, we have the right to challenge him on his thoughts and his views of the world as well. We are not always going to agree — our views may be drastically different — but that doesn’t validate threatening someone’s life and creating fear. Opinions don’t have to divide us, but fear will. Perhaps Graubart did lack empathy in his post, and perhaps it was fueled by anger, which as we can see, can often blind us.

However Graubart had every right to post what he did, and, in response, the public has every right to criticize Graubart’s post and argue against his points. What no one here has the right to do is instill fear into anyone — that is where the real problem lies. Threatening the opposition as an initial response to a disagreement does nothing but halt progress. Threats cause one to forgo the opportunity to shed new light on things in a way the opposition may have never seen. Professor Graubart has expressed some remorse in regards to a few of his words in the post, as he didn’t anticipate the traction it would gain, or how potentially damaging some of it was. If society resorts to threats, fear and persistent anger, then these kinds of realizations aren’t possible.